I once had respect for John MacArthur until I listened to him speak at his Strange Fire Conference. He was uncharitable toward Charismatics and Pentecostals, a tradition that I grew up in. Here is a critique of his book Strand Fire from someone within MacArthur’s own Reformed tradition. Part 2 is here.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
You can find many blogs and books written against religion from Christians and skeptics alike. What I find strange is the self-professed Christians who rail against religion and even claim Jesus came to do away with religion. I understand their sentiment in some respects. Many have used religion in order to divide people instead of bringing people together. Jesus came against such religionists in his own time in the sect of the Pharisees.
No matter their sentiment I am frustrated they have thrown out the word “religion” along with the traditions of those who would abuse it. They’ve thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
The reason it
frustrates me is the Bible itself uses the word religion, and even gives us
what the Lord calls true religion.
James gives us two
marks that we can use to determine if our religion is true religion and not a
tradition made up by humans. First, we are to visit orphans and widows. Second,
we are to keep one’s self unstained from the world.
The second mark, keeping one’s self unstained from the world, is the one many anti-religionists would rail against. It smells too much like what the religionist was preaching. Jesus was consistently preaching against the “holier-than-thou” mentality of the Pharisees. They were more concerned about their holiness, and their traditions than they were about the poor and needy.
That is Jesus’ point in his preaching against the Pharisees. It wasn’t they were too religious; it was that their religion was too one-sided. Jesus said to them, “You… neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These [religious things] you ought to have done, without neglecting the [weightier matters],” (Mt. 23:23).
This is why James,
who famously said “Faith without works is dead,” brings together both
holiness and charity. What we would consider “religious” (doing holy
things) should be coupled with loving our neighbors.
Religion is not bad,
in fact, it is encouraged in our Scriptures as defined by our Scriptures.
Perhaps Aldous Huxley is more of a prophet than I give him credit for. Gene editing will become another way to divide humanity – especially between the haves and have nots. The article asks the hard question: Will gene editing really help the human race?
If you mistreat the poor, you insult your Creator; if you are kind to them, you show him respect.
Can God be insulted?
How often do you think he is insulted? An insult is a cold deliberate act of
mistreating someone in action or dead. How can mistreating the less fortunate
in our society bring disrespect to the Creator?
God created all of humanity. He knit together each person inside their mother’s womb. Each of us is wonderfully made. The poor and the rich; the good and the bad. When you mistreat someone who God has handmade you’ve disrespected that Creator.
The poor have a special place in God’s heart. He is especially protective of the poor and needy. Usually, it is due to oppression from systems and governments that make people poor and keep them there by oppression. Often, there is no way out.
You’ll find verse after verse in the Bible, both Old, and New Testaments, encouraging the poor. They call out to God in their distress and he hears. He protects the poor and he lifts them up. He loves them with tender love.
If you have
children, imagine someone mistreating your child. How would you feel? Do you
feel insulted? Imagine if they were kind to your child, how would you feel?
Would you feel respected? This is how our heavenly Father feels for his
The largest growing segment of Evangelicals in American today are Latinos. I’ve often thought about planting a church with intentions of it being bi-lingual. The Spanish speaking immigrants need Jesus too.